Jamaica | Mar 10, 2023

Five trends of gender inequality in the Caribbean-World Bank

/ Our Today

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Caribbean women are known to be resilient, hardworking and result-driven. Undoubtedly, they have made several strides over the years to become a part of the legislative and leadership process of their respective countries which is generally held by men.

Some Caribbean women who have ascended to leadership roles include Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first female prime minister; Eugenia Charles, Dominica’s first female and second overall prime minister; Janet Rosenberg Jagan, the first female president of Guyana; and Mia Mottley, the first female prime minister of Barbados.

While our women have been shattering the glass ceiling and breaking gender barriers to let their voices be heard, there is still work to be done to achieve gender equality in the region.

As the world recognises Women’s History Month in March, the World Bank, through a partnership with Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana and St Lucia, has highlighted five areas of gender inequality observed in the region.

Women face challenges in transitioning to the workforce

According to the World Bank, women generally outperform men in school enrolment, competition and attainment rates at all levels, however, their educational achievements have not resulted in more economic benefits.

The 2010 National Policy for Gender Equality (NPGE), developed by the Bureau of Gender Affairs and the Gender Advisory Committee, revealed that women’s enrolment rate in tertiary institutions was at 40.7 per cent, which was twice that of men (20.3 per cent).

The job-seeking rate for women was 9.0 per cent which is greater than men’s (5.8 per cent).

The policy revealed that despite women’s educational background they are unable to secure fair and equitable opportunities in the labour force.

Women hold low-paying jobs

World Bank revealed that women in all four Caribbean countries (Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana and St Lucia) were more likely to participate in the workforce than their regional peers and the quality of employment is slightly higher among women.

In Jamaica, women are also less likely than men to hold informal and vulnerable jobs. Women are most likely to secure jobs as domestic workers, cooks and customer service representatives while men generally hold positions in agriculture, construction and engineering.

In St Lucia and Jamaica, men earn more than women across occupations, education levels, and the employment sector.

A World Bank-funded project within the OECS countries aims to level the playing field in one sector by increasing the number of women in aviation jobs and, in St Lucia, a renewable energy project is seeking to double the number of women in the field, through scholarships and apprenticeships.

Women are usually microentrepreneurs

When it comes to entrepreneurship in the region, women are usually small business owners mainly due to a lack of capital and access to financing.

According to World Bank, the share of women-owned businesses in Grenada, St Lucia and Jamaica ranged from 32 to 52 per cent, compared to 31 per cent on average in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In St Lucia and Grenda businesses owned by women generally have a maximum of five workers. In order to tackle this issue, Grenada has already taken steps to provide women with agricultural support and inputs while in Jamaica, women are receiving leadership training and mentorship.

Women in the region are disproportionately affected by natural hazards

Statistics from World Bank revealed that in Dominica, 79.4 per cent of women farmers reported severe damage and loss after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Women often face challenges to recover from natural disasters due to the lack of funding.

After Hurricane Maria, the World Bank provided grants to women farmers to help them recover their livelihoods and thereafter, worked to increase the number of women with insurance to safeguard against future disasters.

Women’s political representation has significantly improved in the Caribbean, but their agency remains limited

Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados.

While women have made strides to secure leadership positions over the years, there is still a lack of entities that champion the cause for women’s rights and well-being.

Efforts to tackle gender-based violence, a common issue that affects women in the Caribbean have been limited.

According to the World Bank’s data, in Jamaica 1 in 4, women experience gender-based violence and when they sought to receive help one-third did not receive assistance. This is a similar situation in Grenada where 1 in 5 women between the ages 15-65 believed that domestic violence between couples is a private matter.


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